Benedict XVI at the General Audience, speaking on Ambrose Autpert
Vatican City, April 23, 2009 – In his Wednesday Audiences, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has been for some time now reflecting on “people from whom we can learn what the Church is.” On April 22, he reflected on Ambrose Autpert, a relatively unknown author of whom little definite information is known, although “careful reading of the works that critics gradually recognized as his authorship allows for the discovery in his teaching of a theological and spiritual treasure precious also for our times.”
Born in Provence, Ambrose Autpert entered the court of the King of the Franks, Pepin the Short, where he was also given the role of tutor of the future emperor Charlemagne. Traveling to Italy, he visited the famous Benedict ine abbey of St. Vincent, located at the source of the Volturno, in the Duchy of Benevento, and not long afterwards, he decided to take up religious life and entered the monastery, where he could train in an appropriate manner, especially in matters of theology and spirituality. Around the year 761 he was ordained a priest and on October 4, 777, he was elected abbot with the support of the French monks and despite the opposition of some monks in favor of Lombard Potone. The tension due to nationalistic divisions did not quiet in the months ahead, and as a result, Autpert, a year later in 778, intended to step down and retire with some French monks to Spoleto. some years later, when the abbot who succeeded Autpert died and Lombard Potone was elected as successor (a. 782), the conflict flared up again, which eventually lead to the denunciation of the new abbot to Charlemagne. The contenders were referred to the court of the Pope, who summoned them to Rome. Autpert was also called as a witness, but suddenly died during the trip, perhaps killed, January 30, 784.
“Ambrose Autpert was a monk and abbot in an age marked by strong political tension, tensions which also had repercussions on life inside the monasteries. Of this we have frequent and concerned echoes in his writings,” the Pope explained. “He denounces, for example, the contradiction between the beautiful outer appearance of the monasteries and the monks' lukewarmness.” With his works, especially a small ascetic treatise on the conflict between vice and virtue, “Ambrose Autpert intended to train the monks specifically on how to address the spiritual battle on a daily basis.”
He contrasts greed and contempt of the world, which “is not a contempt of creation, beauty and goodness of creation and the Creator, but a contempt of the false vision of the world presented and insinuated to us by our own greed...Autpert notes that the desire for profit of the rich and powerful in the society of his time also exists within the souls of the monks and because of this he wrote a treatise titled 'De cupiditate' [On Greed], in which, with the Apostle Paul, he denounces from the outset the vice of greed as the root of all evil.” The Pope highlighted the relevance of this lesson “in light of this global economic crisis...from this very root of greed this crisis is born.” Not only for the monk, “but even for the man in this world, even for the rich it is necessary to fight against greed, against the desire to possess, to appear, against the false notion of freedom as the right to dispose of everything according to one's own will. Even the rich must find the authentic path of truth, of love and in this way the path of moral rectitude.”
The most important work of Ambrose Autpert is his commentary on the 10 books of the Apocalypse, fruit of long hours of work. “Autpert is interested not so much in the second coming of Christ at the end of time, but in the consequences for the Church of his first coming, the Incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary. It tells us something very important: In reality, Christ, 'must daily be born, die, and rise in us who are his body.' In the context of the mystical dimension that surrounds every Christian, he looks to Mary as a model of the Church, a model for us all, because also in us and between us Christ must be born...His great reverence, and his deep love for the Mother of God at times inspired formulations that somehow anticipate those of St. Bernard and the Franciscan spirit, but without diverging toward questionable forms of sentimentalism, because he never separated the mystery of the Church from Mary.”
Concluding his catechesis, the Holy Father mentioned how Ambrose Autpert lived “lived in a time of intense political exploitation of the Church, in which nationalism and tribalism had disfigured the face of the Church. But he, in the midst of all these difficulties that we also experience, was able to discover the true face of the Church in Mary, in the saints. And so he was able to understand what it means to be Catholic, Christian, to live the Word of God...And with all his theological experience, the depth of his knowledge, Autpert understood that with mere theological research God can not be known as he really is. Only love can reach him. Let us listen to this message and ask the Lord to help us live the mystery of the Church today, in this our time.”
After greeting pilgrimages in various languages, he addressed the youth from the “San Lorenzo International Youth Center,” who celebrated the the 25th anniversary of the delivery of the Cross of the Holy Year to the youth of the world.
Benedict XVI recalled that “ since then, the cross was accepted in the International Youth Center of San Lorenzo, and from there began to travel to the continents, opening the hearts of many young men and women to Christ the Redeemer. This its pilgrimage continues still, especially in preparation for World Youth Day, so much so as to be known now as "the World Youth Day Cross." Dear friends, I entrust this cross to you again! Continue to carry it to every corner of the earth, so that the next generation may also discover the mercy of God and have the hope in Christ crucified and risen renewed in their hearts!”
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